Who is a great poet...the characteristics of a great poet.

Essay by shiva_n_samani July 2004

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A great poet is one of undaunted courage and belief in the expansion of his creative powers. Milton had been blind for six years when lie began lo write his masterpiece paradise lost. On this great epic he toiled in darkness for five or six years, sustained by his belief that his epic was greater than Homer's Iliad, that it would be read as long as the English language would be read or spoken. One may say that the great poet combines humility and self-confidence, or egotism: humility to see his faults and learn how to grow slowly; egotism to say of himself, as Shakespeare does in "Not Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments," that lie believes ins poem will live forever. A great poet, then, has a true insight into the value of his creation. He understands better than anyone else the quality of his own creative gifts.

One wonderful thing about studying poetry is that you and I can enter into.

the thoughts and visions of the greatest creations. The greater the poet, the less mysterious his language, as in Milton's poem "On Shakespeare," or in Blake's "The Little Black Boy," or in Homer's story of the way Achilles despoiled the body of Hector. The greater the poet, the less he wants to puzzle or confuse the reader. One of the most profound poems in the language, "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard," is one of the easiest to understand. It you asked, "What is the single greatest book of poems written by an American?" many teachers would say, "Whitman's Leaves of Grass." Yet there are fewer puzzling or mysterious passages in Leaves of Grass than in any other great book of poems written in England or America. Whitman writes in language close to our...